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Ethics Panel Counsel Emphasizes Statements of Durenberger Associates

July 17, 1990

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A confidential report on Sen. Dave Durenberger, submitted to the Ethics Committee by its special counsel, gives substantial weight to statements by his close associates in concluding he should be denounced for financial misconduct.

Key documents highlighted in the report by Robert S. Bennett were described to The Associated Press by sources who had read it. The sources commented only on condition of anonymity.

The report is expected to figure prominently in the six-member committee’s deliberations on Durenberger, R-Minn.

″We’re meeting Wednesday - stay tuned,″ committee Vice Chairman Warren B. Rudman, R-N.H., said Tuesday.

Durenberger, commenting meanwhile on WCCO radio in Minneapolis, said the committee ″ought to do what I’ve done ... acknowledge that I’ve done wrong and they ought to characterize it for people so that it can guide others’ conduct in the future.″

Bennett’s report supports an oral presentation he gave the committee last month, when he said Durenberger had broken Senate rules and should be denounced.

If the committee finds that Durenberger broke Senate rules or federal law, it could rebuke him in a letter or recommend that the full Senate do so in a formal vote.

Such a move by the Senate would have no surface effect on his duties, but could generate severe political damage back home. The Ethics Committee also could recommend to Durenberger’s Republican colleagues in the Senate that they strip him of ″seniority or positions of responsibility″ such as key committee assignments.

According to those who have seen the lengthy report, key statements cited by Bennett include those of: Charles Kahn III, Durenberger’s legislative assistant for health policy; Anne Kelly Planning, the former personal secretary and scheduler; Michael C. Mahoney, his personal attorney, and Paul Overgaard, his onetime campaign manager.

Bennett also focused on statements from a Tobacco Institute representative - former Republican Sen. Marlow Cook of Kentucky - and other trade association representatives who invited Durenberger to speak for a fee, according to the sources.

The investigation centers on allegations that Durenberger violated Senate rules and federal law by disguising regular fee speeches as promotions for his two books, accepting free limousine rides in excess of gift limits, accepting reimbursements for staying in a Minneapolis condominium that he partly owned and later arranging a bogus sale of the condo unit.

Durenberger has acknowledged breaking some rules but said he never intended to do so and asked that any punishment be light.

Ms. Planning, the former secretary and scheduler, said she did not recall any group inviting the senator to give a book promotion speech.

She said she placed all speaking invitations into the same folder and the senator would ″indicate whether the speech was to be treated as an honorarium speech or a Piranha Press speech.″ Piranha Press published Durenberger’s books.

Bennett also cited an affidavit from Cook, who as a Tobacco Institute representative invited Durenberger to one of the first appearances after the book promotion deal became operational.

″There was no discussion of the senator’s books or publisher during the conversation,″ Cook said, adding that Durenberger never mentioned or displayed the books during the address.

Bennett mentioned Kahn, the former health policy aide, for saying he didn’t ″recall any group inviting the senator to promote his books″ and was ″not aware of the criteria used to differentiate″ between a book promotion and a speech for honoraria.

Honoraria speeches are subject to the limits that Durenberger is accused of exceeding. Legitimate book-promotion appearances would be exempt.

In several appearances before health care groups, Kahn told the committee, Durenberger had to acknowledge he hadn’t even completed the health care book he was supposed to be promoting. He told the organizations that his earlier book on defense policy was for sale.

In concluding that Durenberger deceived the Senate to protect his condominium reimbursements, Bennett cited statements by Mahoney, acting as the senator’s attorney; by Overgaard, whose company bought the condominium; and Durenberger’s own writings.

Bennett noted that Mahoney told the committee he cautioned Durenberger in 1986 that he ″couldn’t find any support″ for reimbursements the lawmaker had been receiving from the Senate since 1983. Durenberger at the time owned the condominium with a friend.

Bennett also noted that in July 1987, Durenberger himself confided to two friends in a letter than he believed he had relied on ″shaky or misleading″ legal advice in establishing the condominium arrangement.

Bennett cited statements by Overgaard to conclude that the 1987 sale of the condominium was a sham concocted to let the payments continue. Overgaard said the sale became effective in April 1987 through an oral agreement between himself and the senator.

But Bennett included documents showing the legal papers completing the deal weren’t signed for another 2 1/2 years.

One document showed that Overgaard was so frustrated with Durenberger’s delays in sending him the papers to finalize the deal that he threatened to pull out of the sale.

In a September 1989 letter to the senator, Overgaard wrote, ″The last thing I need is to get involved in your ethics investigation and be accused of participating in a sham transaction by which you collect per diem ... on a residence you actually own.″

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